A federal judge said she will rule on an emergency injunction regarding a federal lawsuit by two Native American tribes alleging voter disenfranchisement by two Nevada counties and the secretary of state’s office. U.S. District Judge Miranda Du heard a full day of arguments and testimony on Tuesday from the Pyramid Lake and Walker River Paiute tribes requesting satellite voter registration, early polling places and Election Day voter sites from Washoe and Mineral counties. The tribes made the requests in August, which the counties denied. They filed suit in early September, alleging violations of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Native Americans are considered a protected group under the act. The counties denied any discrimination is taking place and state the reason for denial is logistics and cost.
Steven Sandven, the attorney for the tribes, argued that the long distance to early polling places and registration combined with zero outreach constituted disenfranchisement.
The plaintiffs introduced several pieces of evidence that indicated election education, including how to register, was lacking on reservations. Most were unsure of how to register to vote and lacked the necessary means – a computer or reliable car – to be able to register, according to a survey presented into evidence by the plaintiffs.
Bret Healy, a consultant for the Native American group Four Directions, said the survey showed Native Americans routinely felt discriminated against at more than 80 percent on Pyramid Lake. More than half of tribal members from both Pyramid Lake and Walker River said they trusted the tribal government most, while around 10 percent said they trusted either the state or local governments the most.